Opinion » Rhetoric & Reason

False narratives redux

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In response to my critics: Solving massive problems requires first an open mind. The use of the ad hominem attack is the stock-in-trade of the closed mind and is the reason why we can't get past false political narratives and actually enact effective policies to address real environmental problems.

The 2018 fire season is an especially bad one, aggravated by the current drought. California has always been subject to prolonged drought cycles, which contribute to the wildfire hazard. California has experienced mega-droughts of 200 years in its not so distant past. If you study the geological history of the state you will discover that droughts lasting hundreds of years have occurred over many thousands of years without any help from humans.

Similar patterns have occurred in the Mediterranean area, affecting Eastern and Northern European civilizations over the last 2,000 years. We have written records of these events and archeological evidence to support the narratives. None of these events were attributed to human- influenced greenhouse gas forcing but were the result of natural cycles. Unfortunately, according to a 2015 article in The New York Times, some scientists say California's infrastructure built over the last 150 years may have been constructed during an unusually wet cycle and we are now returning to a more "normal" and prolonged dry period.

The climate change alarmist narrative attributes virtually every weather event, including recent severe wildfires, primarily to climate change. No doubt, having a drought makes vegetation likely to burn, but it doesn't give the environmental movement a pass. For decades, the "greens" have obstructed virtually every effort to thin forests, clear vegetation, even remove dead and diseased trees from forests, creating undergrowth that is a tinderbox ready to explode. When fire ravages designated wilderness areas, the green response to fire agencies is legal obstruction, insisting that mechanical fire suppression (use of bulldozers, vehicles) be prohibited and only hand-tools and aerial suppression be used. The result is larger fires and greater destruction at more cost. The same applies to vegetation removal, resisted by landowners due to expense and greens demanding no disturbing of habitat. The result is extreme fire conditions and fires that sterilize the soil.

Researchers such as Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research and Stephen Pyne, probably the foremost expert and historian on wildfire in America, agree with my assessment as to the causes of the extreme fire conditions we are currently experiencing. In fact, Pyne and others have predicted this type of fire behavior for decades as a result of government (federal, state, and local) mismanagement of American forests for the last 100 years. Mass development in the wildland-urban interface placing people in canyons that historically burn in classic uphill, very fast moving chaparral fires has added a life-hazard missing during most of the first half of the 20th century. Now the suppression costs are in the tens of millions as are the losses, not to mention the unnecessary loss of life.

Gov. Brown's assertion that fires are now unpredictable and unprecedented is not supported by the evidence according to university of Colorado climate change specialist Roger Pielke, who said Brown is engaging in "noble cause corruption." Pielke said "it is easier to make a political case for (climate) change using immediate and local threats, rather than those on a global scale, especially given the subtleties of climate change research, which features probabilities subject to wide margins of error and contradiction by other findings." Richard Halsey, founder of the Chaparral Institute in San Diego, said, "Public attention should be focused on understanding fire risk, controlling development and making existing homes safer with fire-rated roofs and ember-resistant vents. Otherwise, the houses will keep burning down and people will keep dying. I don't believe the climate change discussion is helpful."

Critic Eric Huber ("Historical narrative," Aug. 9) also included the assertion that hurricane seasons are more severe, except they aren't.

In an interview with NBC reporters, National Hurricane Center Science and Operations Officer Chris Landsea expressed his concern that the media was using hurricanes as a poster child for global warming. "There's periods where it's busy and quiet and busy and quiet, but no trend. There's no statistical change over a 130-year period. Since 1970, the number of hurricanes globally is flat. I haven't seen anything that suggests that the hurricane intensity is going to change dramatically," Landsea stated.

Since 2005, there was a 12-year hiatus in which not a single major hurricane made landfall on the United States. (Hurricane Sandy was a tropical storm when it hit NYC, not a hurricane.)

Skepticism in science is healthy and I suggest drinking less "Kool Aid" and conducting more research.

There are thousands of distinguished scientists who take grave exception to the politicization of climate science as should every concerned citizen. Δ

Al Fonzi is an Army lieutenant colonel of military intelligence who had a 35-year military career, serving in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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